City Trees

March/April 2013

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Two birch trees with limited space for roots blew over in the Anchorage September 2012 wind storm. Photo by Patricia Joyner •Design planting sites to accommodate snow removal and storage; avoid areas where ice and snow may slide from roofs and cause damage. •Mulch at freeze-up to maintain a constant temperature and prevent damage from freeze/thaw cycles that cause frost heaving and push roots out of the ground. Rake mulch away from plants in the spring to warm the soil and remove salts or sand that may have accumulated. •Irrigate well in the spring to support spring growth and reduce soil salinity. Roadsides are particularly difficult sites for trees. An analysis and inventory of plantings along major arterials by Land Design North Inc. of Anchorage support the following recommendations: •Plant trees 10 feet (3 m) or more from the edge of roads to prevent snow plow damage and salt spray. This is especially important for evergreens because snow blown from plows can kill all the needles on the side of the tree facing the road. •Elevate plants above the roadway and direct drainage, which may contain salt and sand, away from plants if they are within 15 feet (4.6 m) of the road. Elevation also makes young trees more visible during snow removal. •Use elevated planters, mass plantings, and mulched beds rather than non-mulched beds, medians, or individual trees in lawns. Wildlife causes some of most severe damage and is difficult to prevent and nearly impossible to remedy. Hardware cloth prevents most damage by voles and rabbits but deterring moose is a challenge. Sprays that discourage moose are difficult to apply regularly in cold weather and home remedies such as hanging soap, hair, or vials of wolf urine on trees are not consistently successful. Fencing trees is effective but the fence must be high enough to prevent a moose from reaching over when standing on deep snow. It is also ugly and expensive when used for a number of individual trees, such as along roads. When moose are starving, even the stoutest fence won't deter them. Urban forestry, arboriculture, and even landscaping are relatively new to Alaska; Anchorage itself is less than 100 years old. We are still experimenting and learning what works. As urban forestry pioneers, the surprises of finding a new species that agrees to live, a new technique that works, or seeing the quality of life in a city improve make the challenges worthwhile and every day interesting. 19

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